Delicious/Nutritious: Sweet, colorful carrots for most any meal
Carrots are vaunted for their copious amounts of beta-carotene, the carotenoid that the body converts into vitamin A necessary for healthy eyes, skin and immune system.
But they’re more than just a vehicle for antioxidants: they’re delicious — sweet and crunchy, with a flavor that can fit almost any meal.
Carrots, this month’s “topic ingredient” are among our family’s staple foods. We grow them in our garden in copious amounts and incorporate them into all manner of dishes, salads and casseroles. My children will eat carrots, and they are so jam-packed with vitamins and goodness, I sometimes fear we will all turn orange for eating them so much.
I prefer my carrots cooked, though a raw carrot dipped in hummus is usually my go-to snack. But cooking carrots brings out their natural sweetness. I know that some people don’t like the texture of a cooked carrot, and I don’t want them to be mushy either. Cooking a whole carrot, rather than a sliced or diced one, helps to maintain a bit of tooth or firmness while still achieving that amazing cooked carrot sweetness.
I like to pull early carrots from my garden, but when they’re not available, usually the organic section of the grocery store will have those sweet little carrots with the green tops still attached. Not only do they taste better, in my opinion, but they also do a lot for plate presentation in the finished product.
These bourbon-maple-glazed carrots were the accompaniment to our family’s monthly steak dinner. They’re also great to make when baking potatoes, because you have an oven on high heat and need about 45 minutes. You can also do them on the grill, wrapped in foil packets.
Bourbon Maple Glazed Early Carrots
1 bundle carrots, tops attached (usually this is about 8 small carrots)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup real maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 F.
In a casserole dish, lay the carrots and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut the butter into pats and lay it over the carrots. Splash on the bourbon and then drizzle with the syrup. They will cook in this butter/syrup/bourbon bath for about 40 minutes or until they’re cooked through but not completely soft.
Carrots have always been a staple for me. I have vivid childhood memories of my mother peeling and chopping a giant bag of carrots each Sunday for the week ahead. In those pre-baby carrot days, she’d store the sticks in a Tupperware container full of water to keep them tasting fresh. Everyone in the family had them at lunch.
In 2015, my carrot consumption is much more varied. Like most people, we buy a bag of baby carrots each week to get us through lunches, but we also have a habit of buying 5-pound bags and juicing them, or pretty rainbow carrots with their tops still on. My 6-year-old’s favorite way to eat those rainbow ones is Bugs Bunny style (with a side of “What’s up, doc?” obviously).
We also tend to make this salad. It’s a play on a recipe my carrot-loving mom lent me years ago. Instead of plain-old orange carrots, I’ve made this salad more colorful by using pretty purple, yellow, pink and orange rainbow variety. Obviously, if you can’t find a bunch of rainbow carrots or find them too pricey, go ahead and use regular ones. The recipe will taste the same.
Rainbow Carrot Salad
3 cups shredded rainbow carrots (about 1.5 bunches, put through a food processor or box grater)
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Place the carrots and raisins or cranberries in a medium serving bowl. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture over the carrots and raisins or cranberries and toss. Serves 4 to 6.
— Sarah Henning (Nutritious) is a writer, blogger, vegetarian and mom. You’ll usually find her eating kale. Megan Stuke (Delicious) is a working mom, a practical cook and an impractical hostess.